Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Yep, Al Davis, Still Insane

Oakland Raiders owner, Al Davis, or Sith Lord Darth Sidious as he is also known, managed to further tarnish his legacy this past week with his ludicrous picks at this year’s NFL Draft.  What I will remember most from the 2009 NFL Draft will be the out-of-touch-meddler’s decision to take Maryland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who most did not project as a first rounder, with the No.7 overall pick and in the second round going with safety Michael Mitchell of Ohio who wasn’t even supposed to get drafted, justifying the picks with something like “I like their speed, they’ve got great speed.” 

Yes, Heyward-Bey is by all accounts a great kid, he had the fastest 40-yard-dash of any player at the combine, and its good that he is getting top ten pick money, but Oakland took him way before he would have otherwise come off the board.  Sure there is no guarantee that you are going to get the guy you want if you trade down in picks, however, in this case they clearly could have gotten more bang for their buck with Michael Crabtree still undrafted.  Everyone was pretty much in agreement that Crabtree was going to be the first receiver taken.  But, apparently, Crabtree is a dick and there are also some durability issues that Davis didn’t like. 

Based on the fact that the top two projected wide outs were still on the board, if he wanted to, Davis could have pulled what Eric Mangini did with the Cleveland Browns.  Mangini, it seems, wanted a certain player, in this case California’s Alex Mack, the best center in this class, but nobody was going to draft him until late in the first round.  The Browns, who began the day selecting fifth overall, a pick that would have been expensive and taken up a lot of cap space, weren’t about to do things the Raiders way and draft the guy way before anyone who wasn’t insane would.  Instead they shrewdly traded down, first with the Jets of all people, the organization Mangini was just fired from, where they got both a first (No. 17) and a second round pick (No. 52) as well as three of his former players.  But No. 17 still wasn’t low enough, so they traded down again, dropping two slots, this time with Tampa Bay for their pick and a sixth rounder.  Not yet satisfied, they swapped spots with Philadelphia and acquired another selection in the sixth.  All that wheeling-and-dealing gave the Browns one the most successful drafts of any team in the NFL—they arguably got the guy they wanted and more for a lot less than they would have in selecting him at No. 5, which would have been crazy.  But this craziness, paying a guy top pick money when they could have negotiated and got him cheap with more to show for it, is exactly what Oakland did.  Although, with all the crap being talked about Heyward-Bey and Mitchell as being shitty picks, they will probably play, as the latter explained, like they have something to prove, which they do, because even if they turn out to be great, people will still give them hell because of the decision imposing, ridiculous Al Davis. 

I say Davis here because we all know that who ever happens to coach the Raiders is only the puppet through which Davis makes all the real decisions which has at least been the case since Lane Kiffin traded Randy Moss for a fourth round pick supposedly behind his, Davis’s, back.  The Kiffin saga doesn’t exactly help his case for mentally stability either.   This highly publicized epic feud will probably follow Davis (and maybe even Kiffin) to the grave.  From day one things never went smoothly with Davis calling his new coach by the wrong name when announcing Kiffin, now screwing the pooch as head coach at the University of Tennessee, as the guy who would lead his team back to greatness back in January of 2007.  After going 4-12 that season, everyone thought Kiffin was going back to college football until he publicly stated that he was going anywhere and was committed to the Raiders.  Apparently, Davis had other plans and drafted a letter of resignation on behalf of the 32-year-old coach that Kiffin refused to sign which would have cost him the guaranteed $2 million left on his contract.  The following season was a circus with Kiffin still on as head coach and Davis threatening to fire him at any moment, finally doing so over the telephone in the middle of their schedule.  Davis then held the infamous press conference where he accused Kiffin of lying and sabotaging his organization which was him trying to show cause to avoid paying out the rest of the agreement.  At best, Davis comes out looking like a bitter old man who redefined overreaction when he felt some young prick had disrespected the thing he loves most in the world.  At worst, he is a vindictive, petty psychopath willing to sink the fucking ship of his team’s success to screw a guy out of the last couple months of his contract just to prove a point.  That point being nobody fucks with Al Freaking Davis.

Our course Davis had the last word and in dramatically petty fashion when his organization sent a letter to Kiffin’s new employers.  The letter is literally incredible and totally illegal—just think if one of your ex-bosses who absolutely hated you and was schizoid sent a formal letter to the people signing your checks at your new job disclosing your “personal agenda in [your] on-going efforts to damage” that former company—and points to the fact that Davis sure as hell can hold fucking grudge.  Boy oh boy.

This stuff is too bad coming from someone who was so important in making the NFL the greatest league in professional sports.  For instance, there would have been no NFL/AFL merger without Al Davis.  Though he refused to combine the leagues while commissioner of the AFL, he more-or-less single-handedly brought the AFL into a legit organization that could compete with the NFL.  He was responsible for finding some of the most talented coaches ever and giving them their first shot—John Madden, Mike Shanahan, and Jon Gruden, all Super Bowl winners, got their starts with Davis’s Raiders.  He also helped integrate the league by hiring the first Latino head coach back in ’79 and the second black coach in ’89.  Plus he is the only owner to ever hire anyone without a penis, Amy Trask, as president/CEO of an NFL franchise.  The Raiders have also had some NFL distinction in that they are the only club to play in a Super Bowl in every decade of since the inaugural biggest game in sports, having won three of those games (76, 80, 83) and coming very close as recently as 2002 when they lost the big game to Tampa Bay in what is known as “Jon Gruden Bowl” he having coached Oakland the previous season.  But since then, Davis has done his best to distinguish his team as the league’s biggest laughing stock, described above, which started the year after their last Super Bowl when they went 4-12 and their coach at the time, Bill Callahan, said “we’ve got to be the dumbest team in America.”  Such insubordination could not be tolerated and Callahan was fired and everything really went to shit when he rehired Art Shell, that second Afro-American coach mentioned up there, only to refire him after the Raiders finished in last place which catches us up to the Kiffin era of unprecedented lunacy.

For all his kookiness though Al Davis is fixing to stick around until the Raiders win two more Super Bowls.  Since Davis is known to overrule his coaches on anything and everything (including the play calling) with his insistence his team runs an offensive game plan that pro football has passed by and only worked sporadically for the last 30 years, what that really means is until he dies.  

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ten Movies That Could Kick Your Ass

Earlier this week, Sara, the female companion, let it be knownst that she had gone 26 empty years without seeing Die Hard.  

"What's that?" she said.  

"You have got to be shitting me!" I replied.  "It is literally the best action movie of all time."

"Nf-kay, literally the best action movie of all time, whatevs."

So she Googled the phrase "best action movie ever" and a bunch of lists came up.  #1 on each of which was in fact Die Hard.  Score one for me.  Face.  I am so smart.  Now that I proved I know my action flicks, I am compiling a list of  the "Ten Best Action Movies Ever" in hopes that I can con her into watching them (although everyone should) which is sort of a feet considering the first three movies I got her to watch (The Rules of Attraction, A Clockwork Orange, and Blue Velvet) all feature disturbing rape scenes, thus to her my taste in film is a bit suspect.  Yeah, well.  Here goes it.

10. Ronin- Best car chases ever.  Makes Bullit and The French Connection look like Driving Miss Daisy.  None of that CGI crap either.  De Niro and Jean Reno are both kick ass and the movie gets its title from the bushido since of the word.  Highly underrated.

9. Kill Bill- From start to finish, there isn't much time when ass kicking isn't taking place.  Super violent, super bloody, super hot.  My personal favorite fight scene is the one between Beatrix Kiddo aka Black Mamba aka The Bride and Gogo Yubari (played by one of the kids from Battle Royale, #8 on this list).  In short, this movie rekindled my desire to become a samurai.

8. Battle Royale- Nothing says kick ass like a bunch of children fighting to the death.  When I taught at that New England boarding school, BR infiltrated the school in all its forms--the novel, the film, and the graphic novel--with one copy of each floating around and planting the seeds of violence into the young impressionable minds.   Eventually it got to the point where everyone was scheming who they would kill and who would be most likely to win if there were a school-wide-every-kid-for-him/herself-there-can-only-be-one-melee-of-death.  (My money would have been on a tough little South Boston fucker named Ryan Cunnif.)  Don't let the fact that this film is set in a dystopian society fool you, the only political statement this film makes is that children will fuck or kill anything in their way and sometimes do both.  This flick is pure carnage.

7. Leon: The Professional- The first non-horror R rated movie I can remember seeing in the theater unsupervised, there will always be a place in my heart for this movie about killin.  The Professional also marks the first time I had ever seen Natalie Portman and never was my lust for her as controlling as it was when I was 10 after watching this movie.  After her family is killed by a psychopathic Gary Oldman, that is to say the typical Gary Oldman character, Portman becomes the understudy of hitman, i.e. cleaner, Jean Reno who takes it upon himself to give Oldman and his henchmen what's coming to them.  The film is actually quite touching.

6. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly- Best theme song ever, whenever I do something awesome I will hum it.  So many things to love about this movie that it is hard to pin down any one thing that makes it so great.  But its Clint Eastwood.  Sergio Leoni too can pretty much do no wrong.  A historical western that is also a tale of redemption.  What can be better than that.

5. The Terminator/T2- If there is one thing I have learned from science fiction, its that Artificial Intelligence is bad.  No film series has ever illustrated this more so than The Terminator.  AI is all powerful and doesn't have things like a conscience getting in the way of taking the shit that it wants.  We create this supreme being and then we lose control of it.  We try to destroy it but shit AI is way too smart for that.  So there is some little group of human holdovers trying to claim back the earth.  Ha, they build shit that is stronger and tougher than anything humanity's got and it never stops coming.  It was Mr. Universe for Christ's sake.  It is the perfect killing machine--its like Jaws, the mummy, and Jason Vorhese rolled into one.  When they don't win immediately, what do those crafty machines do, they invent a time machine to go back and kill the leader of the insurgence mother before he has a chance to even give the renegades hope.  Doesn't exactly seem like the machines are playing fair but they don't care, they don't give a fuck, they are machines and they are a coming.  The Terminator teaches us to prepare and act accordingly.

4. Raiders of the Lost Ark- Dun-da-da-dah, Dun-da-da-dah, Raiders of the Lost Ark was revolutionary, here you have this Doc Savage type guy who goes on mysterious quests for lost relics.  I can trace my educational decision to study medieval literature and religion back to the Indiana Jones trilogy.  The films mix all the coolest stuff about history, religion, anthropology, and what not into one bad ass dude set in one of the most interesting times since the French Revolution (WWII).  An unexpected perk of this little diddy is that you actually learn some pretty awesome shit along the way while Indy fights with the snakes and the whatnots.  

3. Predator- This film oozes machismo.  Staring two U.S. Governors (Jesse "The Mind" Ventura--formerly of Minnesota--and Arnold "The Governator" Schwarzenegger) Predator follows an elite band of mercenaries who go from kicking ass and taking names to being hunted by a giant, invisible, bulletproof, skull collecting super alien with laser capabilities and dreadlocks.  When Arnold inevitably immobilizes the beast, proving once again he really is Mr. Universe, what does the Predator do? does he go out like a woose?  Hell no.  Rather than give even Arnold the satisfaction of capturing him alive, he opts to detonate a small atomic devise that takes out miles of rain forest.  There is not a single moment from start to finish that isn't testosterone pumped manliness.  

2. Unforgiven- "Don't you go cut up or otherwise harmin no whore, or I'll come back and kill every one of you sons-a-bitchs," maybe the greatest closing lines to a movie ever.  Don't be fooled, this is a moral fable--Henry James type stuff here--didactically teaching its views that bad ass, alcohol does one make.  When we first see Eastwood's character William Money, he is a shell of the former cold-blooded-killer he used to be in his youth having turned away from the bottle for the love of a woman.  Ah, romantic.  But after she kicks the bucket, there is no one around to teach him the error of his ways.  So after some assholes kill his BFF, he starts getting liquored up again and the killin naturally comes back with a vengeance.  I'll see you in Hell William Money.

1. Die Hard- John McClane, Die Hard's protagonist, is the American James Bond.  Where 007 has his gadgets, McClane has only his will.  Where 007 is suave, McClane is on the verge of divorce.  Bond's clean cut, McClane has a five-o'clock-shadow and never baths.  Things like this go on and on.  McClane is a drunken maniac who does what he's gotta do and he does it while being an ass and he always manages to say something cool when he blows the bad guy away.  Where some would use caution or moderation, McClane swings down onto a boat via crane and blows up the fucking building.  That is why John McClane is an American hero and Die Hard is genious.  Yippy-ky-yay mother fucker.

Fifteen more movies that are all about ass kicking: Enter the Dragon, the Mad Max Trilogy, Star Wars, Speed, Saving Private Ryan, Fists of Fury, The Matrix, Troy, Action Jackson, Rambo, Lethal Weapon, Gladiator, Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai, The Dark Knight, Sin City

Friday, April 24, 2009

After Reading Maddox's The Alphabet of Manliness I Am All That Is Man

Not too long ago, I was perusing the "Humor" section of Barnes & Noble and came across a book with a guy dressed like a gladiator punching King Kong in the face on its cover.  The book was The Alphabet of Manliness, written by 30-year-old internet personality Maddox, whom I had never heard of, and yeah, I couldn't imagine an image more manly than a guy picking a fight with the Great Ape (see right).  So I picked it up while killing time before work.  I pretty much just opened it to a random page, and what did I find but a section on how to conceal a boner.  Although there isn't really a wrong time to pop a boner, generally speaking, things can get complicated at say a funeral or a job interview.  So say you are being interviewed and you get carried away with talking about how awesome you are and suddenly you are completely aroused.  What do you do then.  Well you have a couple of options here, "the right way and the wrong way."  The wrong way is the way all ninth grade boys have tried and know doesn't work, that is, to lean over while in your chair.  This is bad because it draws attention to yourself.  We have all looked over and seen a guy doing this.  Our thought process is "Why is that jackass bending over, oh shit, I see."  Maddox explains "You might as well stand on a chair and shout, 'Hey, look at me, I'm a fucking psycho.'"  Tis true.  So then the right way.  The right way, simple enough, is to cover it up with something, say a book or a newspaper.  I found this part so hilarious that I actually laughed out loud in the bookstore.  I kept laughing.  I looked like a psycho.  From there, I couldn't not buy the book, and so I purchased this ridiculous book filled with nonsense.

But it is very funny, and like the previous anecdote, it can also prove to be pretty useful at times.   Another area that Maddox is exceptionally knowledgeable is his section on "Urinal Etiquette."  This should be required reading for every U.S. male.  Over the years, I have had quite a few strange bathroom incidences, like the old guy on the respirator who stared at me and I could feel him breathing on me while we were peeing or when this kid from undergrad and I were pissing and he started yelling at some guy to wash his hands, which I thought he actually did, and then mid hand washing tirade turned to me and asked if I "believe in fate" to which I responded that "this is the most existential bathroom experience of all time."  Both of these could have been avoided had these people followed the rules put forth in this section.  However, people are either going to love this book or hate it and its usefulness has absolutely nothing to do with it.  

While I was reading this book, I amassed two separate lists--1. Good things about Maddox and 2. All the ways in which he is an ass--and sort of based my final verdict on how well I could justify the things in list #2.  Some of the things in that second (and longer) list were things like he is a misogynist, his humor is juvenile, he is self-absorbed, etc.  On these charges, I say that his cruelty toward women is more satirical than anything else.  I am not sure, however, that the world of feminism is ready to to be satirized, or rather that we are ready to poke fun at this subject that still requires much work to done for equality.  He doesn't hate women, this much is clear in the acknowledgments section where he pays tribute to his female companion and to his mother (although at the end of this section he does retract the credit he gives to everyone else, saying "I hereby revoke all the gratitude I expressed above and keep it for myself), but I don't think those he thanks appreciate things like his how-to-guide of how to head-butt a woman in the ovaries in the section on "Ass Kicking".

That said, I do think Maddox's satirical humor is pretty damn funny, especially when it comes to farting, of which he states "There is a reason people use the phrase 'timeless humor' when referring to the act of passing gas.  That's because farts are always funny.  Always.", which is true, and also Taunting.  The guy can also write; that is, he is able to deliver his humorous anecdotes time and again.  Hemmingway he is not, but his prose are a lot better than others he is compared to, say Tucker Max (who is just a dick), and when writing about "Copping a Feel" or "Taking a Dump" or "Sneaking a Peak" it'll do.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lost in the Junkhouse: Our Excursion to Cook's Flea Market

For whom is this flea market fun?  Not for lovers, as my female companion and I discovered.  For us it is a place of fear and confusion... Having only spent about 45-minutes at Cook's Flea Market (CFM), I couldn't imagine a more depression inducing place and I will never go back.

Last Saturday, before entering the 155,000 square foot building that houses some 500 booths, I couldn't help but compare it to a state fair.  There were wagons selling all sorts of carnival-esque foods along the grounds.  The building itself, which has seen better days, seems to be an old warehouse.  It seems that this is a "new" location for CFM since across the street there is an abandoned building that still has "Flea Market" above its front doors (we actually thought that this was CFM and that it had went out of business) so can only assume that CFM is actually expanding, though I can't imagine why.  Parked in the main lot were a bunch of motorcycles and some bizarre looking automobiles painted in bright colors with strange logos on them that made me think their drivers either had a sense of humor I didn't get or else were insane.  One car that stuck out was driven by an early twenty something black kid with gold plated teeth that matched the gold rims of the car itself which was painted purple and had on its hood and on its side a picture of Dino from The Flinstones.  It was surreal.  

Once indoors, it is hard not to notice all the neon lights in the front center of market.  Its dissonance reminds one more of a strip club more than say Vegas because of how out of place they seem there, drawing your attention to outdated electronics in a warehouse filled with more things that are outdated.  It seems sad.

The people inside were a curious bunch indeed.  For starters, CFM has to be the wife-beater wearing capital of the world.  Per-capita I am confident there has never been such a high ratio of A-shirts vs. sleeves as inside those doors.  It was close to 1:1.  While there I was unfortunate enough to get stopped by carney-like-vendors twice, I guess I look like an easy mark.  The first person to approach me was a young girl who kept asking me if I was a musician and what band I was in.  She was apparently a rapper and wanted me to buy her CD for $10 which I honestly didn't have, not that I would have bought it if I had, and was under the impression that this... flattery?... would get me in the right mind to throw away money on a genre of music I explained I don't particularly enjoy.  When this didn't work, she informed me that "us musicians have to look out for each other."  Ah, I see.  So after explaining, once again, that I was not in a band or whatever, she kept insisting I was a musician because I, she could tell, appreciated art.  I guess she had a point, but the only music I was interested in making was that of my shoes squeaking as I hightailed it out of the area.  I ended up avoiding the isle she was in for the rest of the excursion.

I wish I could say that the second time I was stopped went more smoothly and made me feel less like an asshole but it did not.  The incident I am about to relate started when we entered a booth selling old video games that were greatly overpriced on systems that are notoriously unreliable.  Immediately upon entry, the kid behind the counter stared at me to the point of it being uncomfortable.  I had learned my lesson before and was avoiding making eye-contact.  The booth was crowded and I hoped that this and my refusal to look up would spare me.  But no, the staring continued, I was doomed.  When I finally looked up, the kid instantly started in like I knew everything about him and had background on the subject he decided to go into detail about.  Never did he mention video games, mind you, his chosen topic was some sort of dirt track racing, telling me things like he did $1000 worth of damage to his car which he bought for only $500 all because he was so used to racing bikes and took the turns like he was on a dirt-bike.  He went on and on about it like I cared about what he was saying and wasn't practically pushing my female companion out of the shop.  What does one do when someone begins a conversation like this? which starts right in the middle of a contextless story that he not only doesn't understand might make others uncomfortable and make him appear self-absorbed but also wants you to respond and show that you care about this and by extension him.  What does one do?  I opted for a "wow, that really is something," before leaving the booth and then CFM.

That encounter really freaked me out.  Part of it was the unprompted conversation.  Part of it was the kids creepy appearance: he was a country boy with really bad teeth (both yellow and crooked) and a tongue-ring gauged down to the size of a AA battery.  But there was something else that I didn't see until I talked to Sara about it and she made me see it differently in a way that ties into the whole CFM.  What she said was "the kid is probably very lonely... and you know he gets made fun of a lot."  Once again, in her infinite wisdom, the old female companion has made me a better person by forcing me to empathize.  With the help of her words, I realized CFM is a place for all that is unwanted.  I am not just talking about the crap that is being sold either, which includes dogs in sad little cages, no, unfortunately the aura pervades among the people selling their trinkets or whatever in the booths of the colossal structure that reeks of rejection and hopelessness.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I'm a Dick-Head: A Review of Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle

Philip K. Dick's Hugo Award winning masterpiece, The Man in the High Castle, was recommended to me by a new friend who reads more than pretty much anyone I have ever known and whose intellect would be intimidating if he weren't so Goddamn humble and easy to talk to.  This was the first bit of literary reading advice I took him up on and post-read, I am now a "Dick-head."  Please notice the capital "D" there in the last word of the previous sentence, though some may argue that I am indeed a phallus brain or whatever, the word refers to my newly acquired love for the science-fiction writer.

Reading Sci-Fi, the genre that got me "into" literature and made me want to be a writer/English major, is something I have gotten away from over the years having little time with the pretentious stuff I had to read for school and with my taste evolving into the works of the postmodern novelists.  However, after meeting this new chum and having read this book, I am likely to be reacquainting myself with that species of lit.  

The novel follows the lives of individuals living in an alternative America during the early 1960s occupied by the Axis Powers (Japan the West, Germany the East, with a sort of lawless-no-man's-land separating them naturally in the Rockies) having won WWII, all the while threatening the planet in each other's quest for world domination.  It focuses on the story lines of five characters--Juliana, Frank Frink, Mr. Tagomi, Robert Childan, and Mr. Baynes--who have to live in the nightmare that is for them the reality of living under Fascist control.  Their lives intersect, some more overtly than others, in numerous ways, but there are two that are most important and are what makes the work a literary treasure--(1) the I Ching and (2) The Grasshopper Lies Heavy--both of which are books.  

Several characters in The Man in the High Castle have in their possession an illegal book called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy penned by the fictional novelist Hawthorne Abendsen.  To write the book, Abendsen consulted the I Ching, something Dick did while writing his novel as well (when he stopped getting answers from it, he stopped writing the book, which explains its "open" ending).  The story-within-the-story tells a version of history that is similar, though there are several major differences,[i] to the one that actually occurred where the Allied Forces won the war.  The implications are pretty straightforward here: history is deceptive.  

Here is where things get tricky.  Like Abendsen, several of the characters consult I Ching when making decisions and such, it is used as and sometimes called an oracle.  A Buddhist text, the I Ching, I understand, though I have not read it, is all about reality and how it is an illusion--sort of your standard Taoist/Confusian/Chan stuff here.  The implication of this, and the books overall message, is that one can never really know can they.

The events in The Man in the High Castle are not our reality, the past retold in The Grasshopper Lies Heavy aren’t either, but presumably our factual world does make an appearance—when Mr. Tagomi has this weird heartattack like out-of-body-experience that nearly kills him while meditating[ii]—but that is not the reality in the book nor can we be sure this is really supposed to be our reality.  The whole thing gets pretty meta.   

In forcing its characters and readers to question what really is this thing reality, the book has a great deal in common with the so-called existentialists like Camus.  We can’t really be sure what is real, and like the characters,  we are all searching for something authentic.  That search doesn’t really end, for any of us, thus Dick leaves the novel’s ending a quote unquote open book.  In doing so he is being, ehm, authentic.  Sure it is a little disappointing to finish the novel and not find out what becomes of the whole impending dooms day scenario unfolding between Japanese and German forces.  But hey, that’s life.

[i] For example, FDR only serves two terms as President, the U.S. conflicts with China and overthrows Mao Zedong, the U.S. and Great Britain oppose one another in a Cold War that Britain emerges from as the world’s lone superpower, apparently, and bizarrely, by being racist, and Hitler doesn't kill himself and has to stand trial for his war crimes.

[ii] I base this assumption on a tidbit from Abendsen’s book that talks about the previously noted Cold War between the U.S. and Great Britain.  There it was said that the Jim Crow laws were abolished in the 1950s while in our reality this didn’t happen until the 60s.  Mr. Tagomi, while crossing worlds, tries to get a seat in a obviously segregated diner; therefore, Dick seems to have Tagomi enter our 1962 rather than the fictitious one in the fictitious book.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

If It's a Happy Death You Want, Assisted Suicide Probably Not the Way To Go

So, Albert Camus's A Happy Death isn't all that happy of a book.  Go figure.  With the word "Death" right there in the title, capitalized and everything, and a work of Camus, the third of his five novels I have read (The Stranger and The Plague before it), I wasn't exactly shocked when things don't exactly go/end well.  Basically a preview of The Stranger, the novel features a guy named Marsault (similar to The Stranger's Meursault) who commits a weird unmotivated murder (though it is sort of an assisted suicide), starts out living a boring and unhappy life, has a bunch of relationships he would classify as meaningless, autistically despises social norms, and is pretty much indifferent to everything.  But he finds happiness.  Throughout this book, the most important thing in life is "the will to happiness."  However, other things are also necessary, for example time and money.  Time is the most important because one needs it to be able to find their true calling, which is basically doing nothing.  To be a bump on a log though, one needs money.  I hear that.  

This is where the murder comes in, happening at the beginning of the work though chronologically speaking it takes place in the middle.  Marsault kills an invalid who all but asks him to do it after he has taught the protagonist the secret to happiness, which he cannot partake in because he lost his legs, and ends up taking enough cash to live out his days comfortably.  For the rest of the book he learns to do just that, finally living it out just before he dies a horrible death delivered via tuberculosis.  Ah the irony.  

After finishing the novel, I described it thusly: "typical Camus, existential bullshit."  Yep, life is pretty absurd.  Camus always makes that pretty clear.   But then again, Camus's work usually ends up being sort of uplifting, despite how bleak everything is on the surface level, because it teaches us the need the importance of living instead of droning on half dead.  And believe it or not, A Happy Death is one of the author's happier novels in that it shows that his protagonist knows how to enjoy life in a way that we wouldn't consider too socially repulsive or anything. While The Stranger is the better book, in a strange way, A Happy Death actually illustrates that suicide isn't a logical option because we always have that ability to create our own joy, though we require enough time and money to do so.  In his own words, Camus wanted us to use "our money to gain time," instead of using "up our lives making money."  If only we could all afford the time.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Did I Mention I Was Captain of the Dipp Team in College?

I have been what you would call a "sultan of Skoal" since my first year of college.  Since 2001-ish, you would be hard pressed to find me without a pinch of tobackie in my mouth, the only exceptions being work, class, and when making out with a woman (usually).  Chewing tobacco, also known as woman repellent, combines some of my favorites things in life--i.e. the taste/smell of dirt, spitting, nicotine--into one easy-to-use substance.  There are, however, downsides to dipping, supposedly, which are pretty much the same as those just mentioned but only when done in public.  

This is why Camel Snus is my new favorite thing in the world since it eliminates all of those things except for the nicotine of course which it feels like delivers more of than the 3 and a 1/2 cigarettes worth that regular dipp does.  The taste is also delicious.  It tastes like candy.  I know this is hard to believe, especially coming from R. J. Reynolds, but I think Camel is trying to market this stuff to kids.  Why else would they take something that tastes like delicious dirt and make it taste like an after dinner mint?  Answer me that one Reynolds.  But hey, I like the stuff more than anyone ever did dick-faced Joe Camel so go figure.